26 March 1999

Grasslands go unprotected

THE government has been criticised for failing to meet its environmental responsibilities by allowing farmers to plough up permanent grassland unchecked.

According to a new report by the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), the government is not implementing an EU directive that would protect Englands valuable meadows and grassland.

The directive requires an environmental impact assessment to be carried out before potentially damaging changes in agricultural land use are made.

The report says that more than 122,000ha (302,000 acres) of permanent grassland – an area equivalent to the size of Beds – has been lost since 1992. Reasons for that include an increased use of clean land for potatoes, more intensive dairy farming, a general trend towards arable cropping, and urban development. &#42